Bittersweet

Bittersweet

We are nearing the end of our 9-week series from the Gospel of Mark, focusing on Jesus’ radical way of defying social norms and religious traditions. Find the sermons in this series here.

Additional Readings
Each week, we will include additional readings to help us work through the entire Gospel of Mark.

  • MARK 14:66-72
  • MARK 15:1-20
  • MARK 15:21-47
  • MARK 16:1-13
  • MARK 16:14-20

As we continue in the passion narrative in the Gospel of Mark, we come to a moment that is among the most holy in our Worship experience. Among the various Christian traditions, a near universal celebration is the sacrament of Holy Communion. The beginning of this tradition is rooted in this text, that we celebrate each year on Maundy Thursday.

There are only a few verses that describe the Last Supper in Mark’s Gospel, but those written later grow significantly longer. Particularly in John’s Gospel, where the Last Supper spans several chapters, these final moments of teaching highlight a culmination of Jesus’ teaching.

But it’s not all sunshine and roses. In the midst of it all, Jesus proclaims that he will be betrayed by one of his closest companions.

Mark 14:13-21 (CEB)
13He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city. A man carrying a water jar will meet you. Follow him. 14Wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks, “Where is my guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?”’ 15He will show you a large room upstairs already furnished. Prepare for us there.” 16The disciples left, came into the city, found everything just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

17That evening, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18During the meal, Jesus said, “I assure you that one of you will betray me—someone eating with me.”

19Deeply saddened, they asked him, one by one, “It’s not me, is it?”

20Jesus answered, “It’s one of the Twelve, one who is dipping bread with me into this bowl. 21The Human One goes to his death just as it is written about him. But how terrible it is for that person who betrays the Human One! It would have been better for him if he had never been born.”

Consider these questions:

  1. In our congregation, we have traditionally celebrated Holy Communion on the first Sunday of each month. Some seasons, we adjust our schedule to celebrate every week. What importance does Holy Communion hold for you?
  2. In some Christian traditions, a celebration of “first communion” is a major step in a person’s faith journey (sometimes as young as 7 yrs, and often age 12-14) . Do you remember the first time you received Holy Communion? Do you see value in a tradition such as this? Are there negatives to waiting until later to receive Holy Communion?
  3. When Jesus announces that he will be betrayed, what do you think the disciples must have thought? Why would they ask, “It’s not me, is it?” How do you think you might have responded?

Post-Worship Update on 9/17

Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).

In this penultimate message in the series, we focused on a narrative that is both hope-filled and heart-breaking. The text highlights Jesus as he and his disciples prepare for the Passover celebration. As you may recall, this celebration is a remembrance of the Exodus story and freedom from slavery. The story is told from the beginning, long before enslavement, and continues through the horrors in Egypt including the plagues before finally escaping through the sea. It is intended to end in a spirit of celebration and festivity!

(Note: To learn more about the Passover celebration, visit this helpful page.)

But I wonder if Jesus was able to experience this sense of celebration knowing that his arrest and trial would begin in mere hours. I wonder if it was possible for him to experience the elation of release knowing that he was about to be handed over for torture and execution.

Even so, we remember that this is not the end of the story! There is still more to come! There is room for hope! There is light at the end of the tunnel!

So maybe the Passover narrative is perfect for this time. It recalls the Hebrew people’s decent into slavery and the persecution endured at the hands of the Egyptians. And it celebrates that God remained present, that God heard the cries of suffering, and that God led the people to new life. In the same way, this story begins the narrative of Jesus’ arrest and trial that culminates in victory over death!

Consider these questions:

  1. We do not all worship at PB UMC for the same reasons. What has drawn you to this congregation? What keeps you here? What inspires you (or would inspire you) to invite others to join this congregation in worship?
  2. What meaning does this story hold for you? Beginning with the Last Supper and ending with the prediction of betrayal, there is much to digest. Where do you find heart-break? Where do you find hope? Where do you find God?
  3. What can we learn from our Jewish siblings and the celebration of the Passover? How can our faith be nourished and enriched in understanding the Passover more fully?

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